'I've never looked back': Giving up drinking has made me a better mum

Image: Shutterstock
Image: Shutterstock 

I woke up one morning after I'd given birth to my second child and stopped drinking. Just like that. No 12 steps, no therapy, I just decided I'd had enough and have not drank a drop since.

I don't even remember the date. I don't count the days, months and years. I don't even really think about it. All I know is it is the best decision I have ever made in my life. It has made me a better person, a better wife, and crucially a better mother.

So I can well understand why Anne Hathaway has decided to give up booze for 18 years because she does not want to be drunk or hungover in front of her son. I gave up for precisely the same reason.

The Hollywood star said she did not plan to drink again until Jonathan, now two, had left home. The 36-year-old actress revealed that she made the decision after getting drunk on rum while filming in Mauritius.

She told The Ellen DeGeneres Show: "I am going to stop drinking while my son is living in my house, just because I don't totally love the way I do it and he is getting to an age where he really does need me all the time in the mornings. I did one school run one day, where I dropped him off at school, I wasn't driving, but I was hungover and that was enough for me."

Hathaway revealed that she went teetotal in October after a night out drinking with her Serenity co-star Matthew McConaughey and his wife Camila Alves, which left her stumbling through a meeting with the director, Steven Knight, the next morning. Revealing she could not remember much about the night, she added: "I have no idea... I just can't drink as much as them."

The only book I ever read about stopping drinking - by self-help guru and juicing king Jason Vale - made this salient point about alcohol: it makes some people unwind and others unravel.

I definitely fell into the latter category, partying hard through my late teens and 20s under the misconception that I could handle my booze. I couldn't. A terrible drunk, if I hadn't ended the night passing out, throwing up or insulting someone, I'd wake up with memory loss and unexplained injuries. Matters came to a head when I ended up coming home in an ambulance after a night necking ros??.

If it wasn't bad enough to have been drinking so much I had to be helped by paramedics, I was going through fertility treatment at the time.

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My husband, by now used to my inability to handle my booze, rightly questioned what the hell was I playing at. When I finally cleaned up my act and became pregnant, it was a relief. Nine months off the booze with no one questioning my motives. My mother had died of alcoholism and I'd always lived in fear of turning into her, but even that wasn't enough for me to break free from the social crutch that alcohol is.

After my first daughter Annabel was born in 2010, I went back on the sauce. But as any parent will vouch, there is a time and a place for a hangover and it isn't when you've got a toddler jumping on your bed at six in the morning demanding to watch CBeebies.

With a young child at home, we weren't socialising much, but of course there were still a few Saturday mornings when I'd wake up, dry-mouthed and with an almighty headache, resenting the little person screaming in my ear to be taken to the park.

I also began to fall into the trap of rushing bedtime for wine o'clock. I still cringe at the times when I skipped the fox and the owl bits in The Gruffalo so I could get downstairs and have that first sip of sauvignon blanc. Then I got pregnant again - another nine-month reprieve.

I think the epiphany came after Harry's christening when, a little worse for wear, I was struggling to get Annabel, by now about two, out of her posh outfit and into her pyjamas. "Are you all right, Mummy? You're behaving a bit strangely," she said, her little face in a confused knot.

Like a lightening bolt, it hit me. She was feeling exactly how I felt all those times when I witnessed my own mother turn into a different person in the evenings (as I later discovered, after several large gin and tonics and a bottle of Martini Extra Dry).

I think I drank once again after that - a glass of red wine, which I just threw straight back up. It was if my body was telling me: enough already, you're a mother now, don't make the same mistake your own mother did. So I didn't, and I've never looked back.

I hope my husband, who still drinks, and my wine-swilling girlfriends will vouch that I'm not a preachy soberista. I still love going out with my mates and will happily drive them home when they're four-parts-p-----. It's just not for me anymore.

And while I try not to take the moral high ground, I do get annoyed when I see maternal drinking casualised, such as with books like Hurrah For Gin. Or all those greetings cards depicting the "hilarious" nature of "wine o'clock" women getting together and getting absolutely blotto.

Have a drink by all means, but being so drunk that you might upset your kids, or so hungover that you aren't capable of looking after them in the morning? I'm sorry, that's not funny, it's tragic.

While I have many flaws - workaholism, obsessive compulsive cleaning disorder, a tendency to be rather bossy and quite opinionated (occupational hazard), I am definitely a better person for not drinking. I'm more efficient at work, thanks largely to the fact I sleep like a log and can actually remember stuff, and I'm a better listener to my friends because I no longer spend my nights out with them talking self-obsessed nonsense.

I think I'm a better wife too, because my husband no longer needs to live in fear of my personal safety when I'm out.

But most importantly I believe I'm a better mother now than I was when I was drinking. Unlike my own dearly departed Ma, I'm there at breakfast (rather than sleeping off the night before) and can always be relied on. They always know where they stand with me. I'm always my best self, not the harried, scratchy version of me that I was when I had a hangover.

Sure I still get irritated by my children, because motherhood is hard and it's relentless. I'm not perfect, but I'm always me and I think they take a huge amount of comfort from that consistency.

I hope so, anyway. Often people say: I don't know how you do it - big job, three kids - what's your secret? It's not drinking. Working motherhood is tough. With a marriage, a family and a full-time job - something had to give. Every day I thank my lucky stars it was the drink.

- The Daily Telegraph, London